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Mexico’s trucks to go deep into U.S.?

The Arizona Republic


The Arizona Republic

The day may be nearing when Mexican trucks will carry freight deep into Arizona and other states for the first time in a generation.

The prospect has rekindled controversy over the safety of Mexican trucks, the fairness of international trade agreements and the effectiveness of border security efforts.

The latest round of debates comes as the U.S. government prepares to open up the southern border to 100 Mexican trucking companies as part of a one-year experiment.

Critics of the plan to allow trucks beyond a 25-mile commercial zone range from public safety advocates to independent truckers and unions. They say it would unleash a flood of poorly regulated trucks onto American highways, threatening the jobs of U.S. truckers and the lives of everyday drivers.

Supporters come from much of the trucking industry, the Bush administration and many in Congress who favor the North American Free Trade Agreement. They say that the Mexican trucks would be tightly regulated to meet U.S. standards and that letting them pass beyond the zone would save U.S. consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mexican trucks crossed over the border 4.5 million times last year. In Arizona, the Nogales port of entry saw 288,000 of the state’s 368,000 inbound crossings.

Since 1982, trucks have had to stop within the buffer zone and transfer their loads to U.S. trucks to take them into the country. The new regulations would allow Mexican drivers to take their loads from Mexico to any point within the country.

The new rules are likely to take effect in July, said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency in the U.S. Department of Transportation that regulates trucking.

The Mexican Senate opposes the plan and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has sued to block it. Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, testified before the U.S. Senate two months ago that the U.S. truck safety agency is ill-equipped to regulate Mexican trucks.

She cited U.S. government reviews that show the agency inspected fewer than 2 percent of U.S. firms, that safety records on Mexican trucks were alarming and that 1 in 6 Mexican truck drivers has no logbook and 1 in 4 no valid driver’s license.

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